What is prayer?
I recently pondered this question after following several news articles on the fight between an atheist group (represented by the ACLU) and the city of Warren, Michigan. On Tuesdays and Thursdays in the atrium of the Warren Civic Center, you will find a prayer station. Established almost six years ago, volunteers of a local Warren church are available to pray for you if you so desire.
The atheist group won their fight and will now open a reason station on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the atrium. The reason station will offer an alternative to prayer: human reasoning.
As we approach the National Day of Prayer on May 7th, I will post a series of articles that will unfold some of the secrets surrounding prayer.
What is prayer? Prayer is communication.
Prayer is communicating with a higher power. Some people audibly talk to God while others do so silently. As recognized in the Jewish religion, prayer is also a two-way form of communication. God talked with Abraham, and Abraham talked with God. George Washington Carver, a renowned scientist of the late 1800s through the mid-1900s, often described his relationship with God. Carter asked God to reveal to him the mysteries of the peanut and attributed his discoveries to God’s answer to him (Federer, 1994). Glue, nitroglycerin, and cosmetics are just of few of the copious products Carver developed from the peanut.
What is prayer? Prayer is acknowledgment.
Prayer is acknowledging that neither The Theory of Evolution nor The Big Bang Theory provides an adequate explanation for the many wonders of our world. It is the acknowledgment that you and I don’t hold all the answers. And ultimately, when it comes to a terminal diagnosis, the act of prayer acknowledges that even medical science does not hold all the answers. In Hidden Beauty of Pollination, Louie Schwartzberg unveils the enchanting complexity of the rhythm of nature. After viewing just a small portion of the film, it was evident to me that this world was planned and purposed in a sophisticated way.
Ted Talks, uploaded May 9, 2011
What is prayer? Prayer is a catalyst.
Prayer can change you, change others, or change circumstances. Years ago when my son had to have emergency surgery, I was caught off guard. For fleeting moments, I engaged the question Why? Why did this have to happen? After my family and I prayed, my anxiety decreased. I transitioned from the questioning mode to the survival mode. I believed God was with us in this situation. So, prayer was a catalyst of change in me. And in the end, my son’s recovery time was much shorter than the time frame the doctor had given us.
The secret of prayer
So, here’s the first secret: Prayer is liberating. It is freedom from the burden of perpetual human reasoning. While an atheist group will now have an opportunity to open a reason station in the atrium of Warren’s Civic Center, prayer releases its willing participants from the burden of human reason. According to Ferguson, Willemsen, and Castaneto (2010), forming a partnership with God through prayer can reduce stress.
When analyzing any subject, I always use the critical thinking technique of questioning: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? But I've learned to add a 7th element—What if? When my husband and I went on a cruise a while ago, we had to fly to Florida. In the process, my luggage was lost. An airline representative told me they would try to deliver the luggage to the cruise ship by the time we boarded it, but when the ship’s engines began to grind and groan as it sluggishly departed from the dock, I did not have my luggage. The luggage did, however, turn up the next morning outside our cabin door. I learned a valuable lesson that transformed the way I travel. I now ask myself What if? What if I am told the overhead compartments are too full for my carry-on bag, and it will need to be checked. What if my luggage does not arrive when I arrive? Consequently, I created a travel uniform: cargo pants and a safari vest.
Both garments are literally veneered in pockets. When I travel, these pockets accommodate Ziploc bags of not only my essentials but also my non-essentials for the upcoming 24 hours.
With that said, I ask: What if there is a higher being? What if the higher being visits from time-to-time? What if the higher being manifests from time-to-time? What if the higher being demonstrates the supernatural from time-to-time? And what if it’s simply alright to reduce the stress from the burden of applying human reasoning to every circumstance?
How has prayer influenced you? This is the story in you. Share it.
Connect with me on Pinterest to view creative ideas about writing:
Federer, W. (1994). America’s God and country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. St. Louis: MO. Amerisearch, Inc.
Ferguson, J., Willemsen, E., & Castanet, M. (2010). Centering prayer as a healing response to everyday stress: A psychological and spiritual process. Pastoral Psychology, 59(3), 305-329.
Ted Talks. (May 9, 2011). The beauty of pollination. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqsXc_aefKI